While owning a motorhome offers freedom of mobility and an adventurous lifestyle, at some point, you may decide that you’d like to set down roots and “glamp” in your own backyard. After all, what’s not to love about downsizing and putting your RV or camper to permanent good use?
Before you get excited about the perks, you’ll find that there may be a few tips and tricks to living wherever you want in your recreational vehicle, even if you want to live in a motorhome on your own property.
Can You Live in a Motorhome on Your Property? Yes, depending on zoning laws, motorhome owners are allowed to live on their own property for a certain amount of time. However, while on private property, most local governments prohibit living in motorhomes full-time because RVs and campers do not qualify as a permanent dwelling.
But all’s not lost – here, we’re going to explore how you can enjoy your motorhome to the fullest, whether it be in your backyard or on beautiful, unmarked land. Let’s discover the options for living in motorhomes on private property, and enjoying your favorite staycation residence.
Living in a Motorhome on Your Property
Because campers and RVs are held up to different standards by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), motorhomes are, by definition, primarily for recreational use rather than permanent housing.
While manufactured homes have foundation requirements and need building permits, RVs and campers have separate safety standards to ensure that they’re suitable vehicles or trailers for the road. Now, you may be thinking: Mobile homes don’t need a foundation, and they qualify as permanent dwellings. But that actually isn’t the case.
“Converting a mobile home to a permanent residence often involves placing the mobile home on a stable, permanent foundation and filing the proper paperwork with your county tax collector or property appraiser.”
Keep in mind that these strict regulations are in place for mobile homes, which the HUD qualifies as primary living quarters. On the other hand, motorhomes are designed to be a studio-on-wheels meant to travel long distances, not stay in one place long-term.
That’s just a simple demonstration of how regulations can get tricky – even for properties that are designed to be permanent dwellings. So, before you unhook your teardrop for good or retire your beloved RV, here are a few tips on how you can check your local zoning laws.
Related reading: Can You Rent RV Space on Your Property? [Is This Legal?]
Checking Your Local Zoning Laws
Many individual counties and cities have their own zoning rules to ensure that a baseball field or a pet store doesn’t end up in the middle of a neighborhood. There are also basic standards for what qualifies as a “principal residence,” and these rules are used to define different housing structures.
Learning about rules is never fun, but the good news is that you don’t have to do it alone. Set an appointment with the go-to experts – a clerk or city attorney can give you details on municipal codes that will affect you and your property.
Some questions you can ask might include:
- “Can I obtain a permit to live in a motorhome on my property?”
If you’re lucky, you may live in a city that will let you secure a permit to start redecorating your RV for full-time residence. In that case, all you need to do is write a check and live in peace.
- “Does my motorhome qualify as an accessory dwelling unit?”
Basements, garages, in-law suites and even tiny homes can qualify as accessory dwelling units. In most cases, owners can live in and lease these properties, so it’d be a good idea to see if you can use this loophole.
- “I see that our zoning laws forbid me from permanently living in my motorhome on my property. How long can I live in my RV before being penalized?”
If your city doesn’t outright forbid living in your motorhome, you may have time to search for an acceptable RV park or a rural zoning area where the codes are more relaxed.
So, let’s say you live in the best city in the country and can set those wheel chocks now. Congrats! Here’s what you’ll need to get this show off the road.
What Do You Need to Live in Your RV or Camper on Your Own Property?
Just like with any RV park or camping location, you’ll need the proper set up to enjoy a comfortable standard of living. It may take a few nuts and bolts, but once your motorhome is properly functioning, it’ll be worth it.
You obviously want to be on-the-grid if you’re planning to park it in your own backyard. Just as hookups for electricity, water, and dump tanks are vital for camping, you’ll want the same creature comforts that you would expect in a manufactured home.
The great news is that this minimalist lifestyle will be reflected in your wallet. While you’re taking up less space in your property, you’ll also be using less power compared to your neighbors.
|Average household||Average RV|
10,972 kWH/year Source: Energy Information Administration
|7,200-7,300 kWh/year Sources: Go Downsize, Camper Grid|
And the only catch is the fact that you’ll need to set up your utilities. Luckily, there’s plenty of guidance for setting up your mobile roost, including tools that will make camping out just as user-friendly as it can be while on the road.
Get in touch with a local plumber or electrician to get an outdoor set up, or do some online digging for devices that you can install yourself – like this electrical receptacle that looks just like the outlets you’d find on campgrounds.
Gather whatever dog bones, water filters, and hose extensions you’ll need, and you’ll be well on your way to an RV-complete lifestyle. But let’s talk R & R.
Your camper is no exception, so if you want to live there full-time, here are some ways to liven up your space.
The rule of thumb for portability tends to be “The smaller, the better.” But if you’re living in one spot long-term, you shouldn’t have to sacrifice your 50-inch.
In this case, it’s all about location: you can try a projector with a collapsible screen, or a built-in set up, but mounted televisions tend to be more popular. A flip-down mount like this would make a great space saver.
Moving on to WIFI, there are several options and price ranges available.
If you live with another primary residence that already has WIFI, this may not be an issue, but it doesn’t hurt to be in the know.
While the thought of an emergency might not be as pleasant to think about as the amenities, nothing beats peace of mind. Read below for a small list of things you might need in case of an emergency.
Items to stow away:
- A generator
- A jump starter
- Spare tires
- Water for consumption, extra filters
- Extra hygiene products
- Black and gray tank chemical treatments
Of course, if you have another residence on the property, or neighbors nearby, help is just a few steps away. But if you live in a more secluded or rural area, it’s always a good idea to be prepared.
Now, in the case that you can’t live in your motorhome on your own property, let’s take a few steps back and explore areas where the rules are more relaxed and you’re free to live under the sky.
Where Can You Live in Your Motorhome?
They say the land is free, so if you still crave the chance to live wherever you please, motorhome living may be worth the drive out of city boundaries.
Campendium is a great resource for finding sites that welcome motorhomes. Their map feature offers a natural expanse dotted with opportunities. It’ll clue you in on a range of helpful locations from parking spots to RV parks, to dump sites and free camping areas.
A handful of the smaller states (Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Rhode Island) don’t have any free camping sites, but the other states have hundreds of options to make up for it.
And as mentioned earlier, many rural counties have zoning laws that are more lenient. With the right connections, some motorhome owners can venture outside the county lines and hash out a deal to live on a friend’s property. Just always make sure to check with the local authorities, and the farther away from a big city, the better.
Related reading: Average RV Park Rates: Nationwide Campgrounds Prices per Night
Final Thoughts on Motorhome Living
Hopefully these tips will help you find a great spot to place your heart-on-wheels. A motorhome can be a wonderful, fulfilling investment, so make sure to explore all of your options to find it the perfect home. You won’t regret it.
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